Should I stay or should I go?

As the attack goes the same way from a ruck, where should the first defenders line up? There are no hard and fast rules, so use this breakdown activity to help them make the right decisions.

Traditionally, the first defender at the ruck tucks in to stop a pick-and-go. But to decide where to stand, he must first read who’s likely to get the ball. The second defender has to go inside or outside him.

  1. Set up two defenders and four attackers (9, 10 and two forwards).
  2. When you say “go”, they race into position (the 10 wanders only a short distance).
  3. The 9 must decide whether to: > 1. Pass to 10 > 2. Pass straight to a forward > 3. Run himself > 4. Run and then pass to one of the forwards.

  1. The defenders need to get into position to cover these options.

  1. Develop by delaying the start of one of the defenders, so the first defender across must decide whether to stand close or wider.
  2. Also, bib up a “danger” forward who’s a likely ball carrier (“T” in picture above).
  3. The first defender across should target marking this player.
  4. Use touch tackling at first.


  • If the defenders think the 9 will go, they should cover close to start with.
  • If they think he’ll pass to the wider forward, they should cover him.
  • Normally, if there are two defenders in place, the second defender from the ruck covers a running 9.
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